Canadian MLB notes: O’Neill, Lopez, Toro, Votto, Wick

March 28, 2023

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

There have been some developments involving big league Canadians over the past 24 hours.

Here’s a summary:

O’Neill to start in centre field for Cardinals

According to Derrick Goold, of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) will be the St. Louis Cardinals’ centre fielder on Opening Day. O’Neill, who won Gold Gloves playing left field for the Cardinals in 2020 and 2021, had lobbied Cards manager Oliver Marmol for a shot at the position early in spring training. O’Neill patrolled centre field in two of games for Canada at the World Baseball Classic prior to returning to Cardinals’ camp. Marmolsaid in late February that O’Neill would compete with Dylan Carlson for the Cards’ starting centre field job. The 2022 season was a difficult one for O’Neill. He missed time due to hamstring issues, neck stiffness, a wrist injury and shoulder soreness. In all, in 96 games, he batted .228 with 14 home runs and 58 RBIs. Coming off an injury-riddled campaign, the 27-year-old outfielder could’ve (understandably) backed out of playing for Canada in the World Baseball Classic. Instead, he competed in all four contests for his country and went 8-for-13 (.615 batting average).

Lopez to be sent to triple-A by Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays manager John Schneider announced on Tuesday morning that Nathan Lukes had secured the final bench spot on the club’s 26-man roster. Otto Lopez, who spent part of his youth in Montreal and played for Canada at the World Baseball Classic, had been considered a strong candidate for that role. Instead, he’ll start the season at triple-A Buffalo. “There was nothing more he could have done to break with us,” Schneider told reporters, including Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith on Tuesday, of Lopez. “When we start this whole thing at the beginning of camp, I tell the guys it’s going to take contributions from everyone in the room. He’s going to be part of that at some point as well.” Lukes, who exclusively plays the outfield, went 12-for-42 (.286 batting average) in 18 games for the Blue Jays this spring. Lopez, 24, would have provided more versatility; he has experience at shortstop, second base, third base and centre field. He went 8-for-23 (.348 batting average) in 11 games for the Blue Jays spring and was 5-for-17 (.294 batting average) with a home run and a team-leading six RBIs in four games for Canada at the World Baseball Classic. Born in Santo Domingo, D.R, Lopez was signed as an international free agent by the Blue Jays prior to the 2017 season. Lopez has hit well at every stop in the Blue Jays’ system, posting a .305 batting average and .373 OBP in 426 minor league games. He has also swiped 77 bases, including 14 for triple-A Buffalo in 2022. Lopez got into eight games with the Blue Jays in 2022 and went 6-for-9 (.667 batting average).

Toro optioned to minors by Brewers

Abraham Toro (Longueuil, Que.) was optioned to triple-A Nashville on Monday by the Milwaukee Brewers, according to Adam McCalvy of The switch-hitting infielder was 5-for-27 (.185 batting average) with a home run and four RBIs in 11 games for the Brewers this spring. He returned to Brewers’ camp after going 5-for-15 (.333 batting average) in four games for Canada at the World Baseball Classic. Originally selected in the fifth round of the 2016 MLB draft by the Houston Astros, the ABC Academy alum made his big league debut on August 22, 2019. He played parts of three seasons with the Astros before being traded to the Seattle Mariners. In 2022, for the second time in his major league career, he reached double-digits in home runs, belting 10 in 109 games for the Mariners. The versatile Canuck also added 36 runs, 60 hits, 13 doubles and 22 walks. Toro was also one of the Mariners’ top pinch-hitters, going 4-for-12 (.333 batting average) during the regular season. He was dealt to the Brewers, along with Jesse Winker, on December 2 for Kolten Wong.

Votto will not be ready for Opening Day

Cincinnati Reds slugger Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) will not head north with the Cincinnati Reds for Opening Day, according to Joe Danneman of Fox19 Cincinnati. Votto will instead continue to rehab his shoulder. The 39-year-old slugger is 4-for-22 (.182 batting average) in eight Cactus League games this spring. Votto underwent shoulder surgery on August 19, just four days after playing his 1,989th major league game which broke Larry Walker’s record for most games played by a Canadian. In all, Votto batted .205 with 11 home runs in 91 games in 2022. The 16-season veteran has one year left on his contract with the Reds (with a team option for 2024). If Votto can return early in the 2022 season, he has strong shot at breaking more of Walker’s all-time Canadian big league records. For example, Votto has 2,093 career hits, which is just 67 short of Walker. The Reds first baseman has also belted 453 doubles. Walker had 471.

Wick outrighted to triple-A by Cubs

The Chicago Cubs announced on Monday that Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, B.C.) has been outrighted to triple-A after clearing waivers. The 6-foot-3 right-hander had a 4.05 ERA in seven relief appearances for the Cubs this spring, but had struggled with his control, walking five batters in 6 2/3 innings. The 30-year-old right-hander is coming off his first full major league season after overcoming a serious oblique injury that sidelined him for the majority of the 2021 campaign. In 2022, the Canuck right-hander topped all Canadian big-league pitchers with 64 appearances. He posted a 4.22 ERA and registered nine saves, while striking out 69 in 64 innings. He was particularly strong in the second half when he recorded a 3.42 ERA in 25 games. The Cubs signed him to a one-year, $1.55-million contract in the off-season.

6 thoughts on “Canadian MLB notes: O’Neill, Lopez, Toro, Votto, Wick

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  1. Well, not much great information here, but good to know for sure. Let’s hope they make it back up soon.

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